Ton Trio II (with Scott Brown & Alex Vittum) returned to the Layover on Monday night as part of the series that has been going on since January, put on by the Oakland Freedom Jazz Society – run by Fernando & Tracy from VAMP music & art. We hadn’t played since recording at Tiny Telephone during Memorial Day weekend, so I was looking forward to dusting off the charts and seeing what we could do to freshen things up. We played three sets and I really liked how we stretched out – Alex sounded great on the drums, and Scott had some particularly nice bass solos. By the time our third set wrapped up we had a nice audience, and there was generally a good feel in the bar that night. Unfortunately at the end of the show, after I had plugged next week’s show by Vijay Anderson, I was told that series had been discontinued! Turns out that Layover wasn’t making enough money to justify having the series (they were contributing from the bar). The free jazz/improvised music doesn’t bring out the hard core drinkers, especially on a Monday night, and that’s where the bar has to make their money.
This is part of the whole thing. Any bar or restaurant or venue that chooses to book this kind of music needs to actually have a vested interest in it. It’s not a money maker. It doesn’t get people dancing (which leads them to drink). It’s music mainly for listening. I like to perform in casual environments like the Layover, because I think that what we’re doing with TT2 can attract a wider audience of people who aren’t familiar with free jazz, so you might get some new ears. I see rock shows all the time that have elements that challenge the listeners. I think jazz music should do the same thing – introduce new sounds to the audience, and I think the audience should be willing to accept that. It’s strange that audiences can embrace experimentalism in rock, but not so much in jazz.
I was hopeful with a place like the Layover taking a chance on this kind of music. Right now in Oakland there are lots of new bars & restaurants, without the huge amount of customers, so it seems like the perfect time for these places to take a chance on doing something new & interesting, rather than having yet another ipod DJ night. A weekly series is a valuable commodity, and over time (years sometimes) an audience will grow and word will get out that there’s this kind of music on this night that is interesting & unique. I imagine that in the months to come I’ll talk to people and they’ll ask about the series at the Layover, and I’ll have to tell them it’s over. Hopefully by then we’ll find a new home for the series.
Mark Clifford is a vibraphone player – a very good one, and he writes music too. I met him a few years ago at MamaBuzz Cafe, where he was playing in duo with a bassist. A random encounter that has proved to be fruitful – he’s definitely one of my favorite musicians to work with, as he’s a great player, an interesting composer, and he keeps pushing himself. He’s got a lot of interests musically, but not eccentric. We’ve played together notably in a quintet called “These Are Our Hours”, my new group “Golden Age” and a recent collaborative quartet with Kyle Bruckmann and Anton Hatwich. The group he leads is called Dirty Snacks, and it brings together a few of his interests including through composed song forms, stretched over bars polyrhythms and variety of orchestration into an indie rock-ish starting point. We played at the Makeout Room on June 3rd at the Makeout Monday – the long running monthly show in the Mission. We shared the bill with Karl Evangelista’s Grex and Moe! Staiano’s Surplus 1980.
The lineup for this show, and the one Mark wants to stick to (I think) was Mark, vibes & voice; Elise Cumberland, voice; Hannah van Loon, violin; myself, alto sax& bass clarinet; Marty McGinn, keyboard; Scott Brown, electric bass; and Geneva Harrison, drums. A strong lineup for sure. We were able to really work on the material and the show felt great – the most complex of the tunes not giving any problems, excellent performances from everyone in the group, and a crowd that showed up early to actually listen! If you’ve ever wanted to see a vibraphonist lead a band and sing at the same time (on only a few tunes), then you’ll want to keep an eye out for the next show.
Ton Trio II is my newest trio with the young bassist Scott Brown and the “secret weapon” drummer Alex Vittum. We’ve been playing as a trio since early December 2012 at a monthly show at the Layover, a bar in downtown Oakland that is now having creative jazz type music on Monday nights thanks to Fernando Carpenter from VAMP records. A few months back Jeff Parker contacted me about doing a show together, and things aligned for a night at Duende, a new Basque themed restaurant that is also in downtown Oakland, and has a dedicated performance space for our kind of music. (It’s a great time here in Oakland – places actually opening up that respect this kind of music!)
The space is in the upstairs area, and while sound comes in from the restaurant area, the character of the space makes it worth it. Ton Trio II played the first set, and we went through seven of our tunes. The room felt good and we played one of the best sets we’ve had to date. Making it all the better, we had a really great turnout, including a lot of friends. Jeff’s Trio with Chad Taylor (drums) and Chris Lopes (bass) sounded excellent. They have such a connected way of playing together – and there’s a lot of nuances that you can miss if not paying full attention.
Omid Zoufonoun made a very nice two camera video of our set. Keep an eye out for it on the youTube